In the world of online marketing, email acquires a royal status. That’s because multiple studies have shown that the return-on-investment with email is many times higher than social media and PPC campaigns. Email marketing can be a great way to promote your freelancing business. Let’s see why we should consider email marketing for freelancers.
A freelancer has a SINGLE core skill, and several other skills used in various capacities. As a freelance writer, I’m in charge of my own marketing and accounting as well, besides my core skill of writing.
Freelancers and marketing
Marketing is important for all businesses, of all sizes. A freelancer is just another business owner except in his company, he’s the only employee.
The thing about marketing your own business is – it’s not as hard as it seems to be. The easiest way to market your business is to define your target market, and start talking to them.
It is, however, a lot more labor intensive because there are a lot of moving parts in marketing.
Email marketing for freelancers
Email marketing, at its core, is sending emails to market your services. Now, the effect of marketing is directly related to the relationship with your lead.
We need to build relationships with our potential customers first – to acquire a relevant and familiar position in their minds.
The way brands do it is they give us knowledge products like an ebook or a free tool to warm up to them during the early days of their relationship. Bigger brands would pay for highway hoardings and TV ads.
Email is the tool that freelancers (or businessmen) can employ to build and nourish customer relationships over time.
This article first dives deep into the need for freelancers to adopt email marketing. We then move on to further exploring what kind of emails you can send to get the best email marketing ROI.
Benefits of using email marketing for freelancers
Exact requirements of freelancers from their business may vary. But all freelancers want a growing audience to market their services to, without too much work. They want to focus on executing their current projects too.
Building your email list is a fundamental advantage of email marketing
It sounds like a bit of a paradox, doesn’t it? Sending emails to grow your email list?
In the case of freelancers, their first email list typically comes from their previous clients. Over time, these emails draw traffic to their website. Gradually, with a combination of content marketing and list growing techniques, the freelancer’s content gets exposed to a wider audience.
Marketing starts by knowing the customer. “Getting an email address is the first critical step to figuring out who my reader is, and hopefully in the future, my customer of some sort.”, says Joe Pullizi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute.
In fact, Joe shared an interesting insight about what an email list means to him. He says that an email list is your own audience. When you market your products and services on other sites, you are essentially renting their audience.
What we can learn from this is – you have to grow your audience and know them as well. And to know them, first, we must own them. You can rely on social media sites for growth; they’re not useful if you want to get to know your audience.
If you want to keep the customer happy, they should be a part of your audience i.e. your own audience
Having an email list is a fantastic tool for repeating traffic as well. “For example, if you have a blog, every time you publish a new post, you can notify your list, which will help increase repeat traffic.”, says marketing giant Neil Patel, founder of QuickSprout.
Email marketing is also a tried and tested business growth strategy
The importance of email marketing in 2018 has not gone down, it has only increased. a reason email marketing is cited so widely. Here are some email marketing statistics for 2018:
- The returns from investment from email marketing stands at 122%, that’s over 4 times higher than social media, direct mail, and paid search investments (based on a study by DMA and Demand Metric).
- Among professionals, 86% of them prefer to use email over any other business communication tool (from HubSpot research).
- Approximately 89% marketers say they use email as their primary lead generation method (according to Mailgen).
Campaign Monitor’s research found out that email messages are 5 times more likely to be viewed than Facebook ads. According to the same research, for every $1 you spend on email, you get $38 back.
And email marketing is cheap to establish too. A decent email newsletter will require a graphic designer, a conversion-focused copywriter, and an email marketing provider. Do check the level of marketing automation is enabled by your email marketing provider.
There are several email marketing automation tools that allow you to send emails for free.
Look for email marketing services priced for smaller businesses, like EngageBay. You can thus bring down the price of the email management component too.
Email marketing also lets you increase the awareness of your personal brand
For freelancers, a simple email newsletter can be a great reputation builder. In fact, Thursday Bram (owner of ThursdayBram.com) has this to say about the importance of having an email newsletter.
There’s a certain element of reputation that goes along with operating an email newsletter. Do it right and you’ll soon be known as the publisher of that impressive newsletter, who happens to also offer amazing freelance services. […] The quality of your newsletter will always reflect directly on your professional reputation.
Email offers a direct and highly personal connection to your lead. Use it to your advantage and send high-quality content consistently.
There are so many newsletters, brand emails, and other forms of brand media out there. This causes so much information noise in the world, people have become immune to marketing messages. When a lead looks at your email, they don’t think “oh, it’s an email from my favorite brand”. They think “what’s in it for me?!”.
However, implementing personalization lets you make your emails more relatable to the consumers. Higher relatability translates to a higher number of email opens and click-throughs.
The email also offers a fantastic opportunity to build trust with your leads
Trust is the crucial interpersonal glue that binds all teams. Paul J. Zak conducted a long-term research to understand why people trust each other. He published his findings in Harvard Business Review back in January 2017.
He found out that Oxytocin, the hormone responsible for making people less stressful, also helped them build trust. Therefore, by building trust, you are reducing stress in their lives.
To put it another way, you must communicate to reduce stress in people’s lives, to gain their trust. There are several ways to implement that through email marketing.
By sending high-quality content regularly, you are helping them solve the problems they might have. You are helping them accomplish their goals. It indirectly reduces stress and helps you acquire a unique place in their lives.
Over time, as they realize the importance of your emails in their business and personal lives, they will come back.
When they want to buy a service that you also happen to offer, they will choose the path of least resistance and least stress. Just craft your email in an engaging and personal way, and this seemingly impromptu sale is yours. All you have to do is write emails in a way that reduces stress and builds trust.
But remember this – It doesn’t happen overnight, or within a week. Building trust requires time and until then, you can’t really expect people to take action and buy your services.
Be sure to ask their permission to add them to your list first. Do not, under any circumstances, buy an email list If they can’t remember when they signed up for your emails, they would unsubscribe immediately. They may even mark your email address as spam.
Also, a double opt-in confirmation for brand email communication is now mandatory for companies handling EU citizens’ data. For more information, explore GDPR here.
Emails are a great way to gather open and structured feedback
It’s no secret that social proof is also a great trust building factor. Feedback (or testimonials) are ways to materialize social proof.
Surveys delivered via email are really useful in collecting feedback. People also reply to your email directly to offer their appreciation.
Some tools also let you schedule feedback emails. The best way to collect testimonials is by asking them a set of questions and building a single testimonial paragraph out of them.
So gather testimonials periodically from current and former clients. Use it to sell your services to new clients. Use them on your landing pages or in your service pitch deck.
Emails are a great way to build authority and charge higher prices
Freelancers typically work alone and can usually only take up to 3-5 clients at any given point in time.
Here, someone might ask – if a freelancer has so few active clients, why does he need email marketing to grow his business?
Email marketing grants your business a certain level of professionalism in your business communication.
As already mentioned, email marketing helps lower the barrier of distrust through the delivery of high-value content. This trust manifests in the form them considering you as the “authority” in your niche.
Many freelancers don’t want to work with low paying clients or clients who tend to bargain too much. Email marketing makes you approachable to high paying clients because you “appear like a brand”.
So the path of email marketing leads you to
- Better quality clients
- Higher paying clients
- More diverse work
- Freedom to choose who you work with and what you work on
Emails are also a great way to stay in touch with older clients
But, what if a freelancer currently has good business?
Here, I would like to ask you a crucial question – Do you want to be in the league of freelancers who are booked months in advance?
Do you want to be the freelancer chasing the clients for money or do you want to have the clients chase you to do their work?
If you are a smart cookie, you will choose option 2.
Email marketing reaches out to all clients in your list, whether you have worked with them in the past or are currently working with them. You can share the latest blog posts, general knowledge, or simply discuss your favorite topic.
Their business transaction with you may have ended many moons ago. Regular emails let them know
- you are alive (avoid the dreaded small talk the next time you meet an ex-client)
- you haven’t forgotten them
- you are still approachable for work because you are talking about work-related stuff in your emails
- keep you and your business offering on top of their minds. So whenever they want to hire a freelancer next, they would think of you first.
- helps you curb periods of no business (another perpetual complaint of freelancers).
All these effects are working behind the scenes for all those freelancers who are booked in advance.
Do you still want to be indifferent to email marketing? Do you want to hop on the email bandwagon?
The process to set up Email Marketing for Freelancers
This might seem like an expensive process. You need to do a smart perusal of email marketing tools in the market. It allows you to set up email marketing and start using it within a day.
Let’s look at the steps you will need to execute to set up your email marketing.
Step 1: Select an email marketing service provider
With an email marketing service provider, you can
- Collect subscriber information through inline forms and web pop-ups.
- Schedule emails for your subscribers through email sequences (link here)
- Measure your email campaigns for continual improvement.
All email marketing automation software has very similar functionalities and the differences are often small. Fortunately, they all have free trial periods.
So, you can try out your favorite ones for free and then select one that is most comfortable to use and gives the best results.
Many email service providers also have cheap (or even free) plans for less than 1000 subscribers. You can take advantage of these plans while you are still growing.
Step 2: Define a profile of your favorite customers
In marketing, we call customer profile as “customer persona”. It helps you determine who you will target in your marketing strategies. It must also give you an idea about their communication styles. This shows you how to structure your messages to get closer to them.
You have to dive deep into your potential audience’s interests and expectations. Your customer persona should go beyond basic demographic attributes like age, gender, and location.
The more you know your audience, the more relatable your marketing messages will be. A higher level of relatability means better business prospects.
Step 3: Create a free lead magnet
The first rule of marketing is “give before you take”. In that regard, you must create a document offering high-value content for free. This free artifact is called your “lead magnet”; its job is to attract visitors to join your email list.
When they see that you are giving important stuff for free, they will gladly give you the email address.
Step 4: Create a non-distracting squeeze page, and use an opt-in form on it
A squeeze page offers details of your free incentive. Marketing your incentive is also needed here.
Communicate real benefits over just a list of features. Visualize how your free incentive fits into your visitors’ lives. Use that visualization to write content on the squeeze page.
Put minimal outgoing links on that page. It can be a dedicated squeeze page or a blog post. There should be no internal reference links; the content should be self-sufficient.
To minimize the distraction, consider minimizing the menu bar or removing it altogether.
You will use this squeeze page by making it a campaign landing page. Source of traffic can be social media and you can place a web popup (web popup guide link) on it to capture new emails.
Step 5: Create a strong welcome message that drives conversations with your new leads
You can create a simple message welcoming them to your list. Then you will tell them what kind of content they can expect from you.
Occasionally, marketers also use questions about the leaf’s biggest current problems. The answers are saved and analyzed to gain a higher level of customer insights. This will give you better content generation opportunity and ultimately, more business opportunities.
Step 6: Create a content calendar
The frequency of emails should not be too high to low. If it’s too frequent or too infrequent, the users will get annoyed and they will unsubscribe from your list. They may even report your email address for spam.
A content calendar ensures periodic delivery of high-value content. The aim of having a content calendar is having predictability and control over long-term content quality.
Step 7: Measure email stats
The email statistics that you should measure are:
- Open rates
- Click-through rates
- Unsubscribe rates
- Bounce rates
- Spam reports
Use more of emails that deliver higher open rates and click-through rates. There will always be some unsubscribes. If one particular email leads to a higher number of unsubscribes, examine it and see what went wrong. Send less of those emails in the future.
Step 8: Limit your email list
Unengaged subscribers are dead weight to your email list. They ruin your open rate by increasing the total subscribers (i.e. denominator of the equation).
Most email marketing service providers charge you for the size of your email list. It becomes necessary to limit your list to only those subscribers who truly want to receive your content.
You can run an email deactivation campaign periodically. You will send them an email telling that non-response will lead them to be removed from your email list.
Applying email marketing for freelancers – The Freelancer Sales Funnel
So you realized how email marketing is essential for freelancers. You also went ahead and set up your own email marketing channel.
You set up your lead magnet, your squeeze page, and placed an email opt-in form on it.
Your email list has a few members but how do you make the best use of it? We can send email content based on a suitable customer persona.
At this beginning stage of the cycle, you don’t know anything about the customer. It’s all chaos in your email list.
Even if you do come up with your own content list, it won’t apply to all customers in all stages. You can’t keep sending the same email 6 months after a subscriber has joined the list.
Simply put, the content being used for introducing your product/service cannot be used to close a sale.
Before creating an email for freelance marketing, your content calendar needs some organization. It needs a proven plan that has worked for other freelancers. It brings calm to the chaos of an unorganized email list. This plan is called the Freelancer Sales Funnel.
A sales funnel captures the stages of the customer journey – from a first-time visitor to a repeat buyer.
Even a strong email marketing set up is useless without knowing how your funnel works.
Funnel Stage 1: Awareness of your product/service
This is the very first stage of the funnel. You will notice it’s the widest stage.
When a first-time visitor signs up for your email list, he/she enters this stage. They were unaware of your product. Your content excited them enough and they’re now curious.
So in this stage, the purpose of content being shared through your email will be spreading awareness – about your services and the problem it solves.
Types of emails to send to leads in Stage 1:
- Pleasant opening emails
- First set of emails to introduce your business/products/services
- Educational (or problem defining) emails that help unaware users become aware of their problem.
- Lead magnet mails (when the free incentive content is delivered over a series of emails)
Funnel Stage 2: Interest in your product/service
In this stage, people are already aware of their problem. They are now looking for someone to help solve them. However, they haven’t yet decided to hire you to solve their problem.
This is a comparatively narrower stag. There will be some new subscribers who will drop off when you prune your list down. This will be a natural process of elimination – some people do lose interest, and for various reasons.
Those who are not interested should stay off your list. Otherwise, they will only be dead weight pulling down the efficiency of your list.
Those who survived the first stage did not lose their curiosity in your brand. So, in this second stage, you will put them on an email drip campaign.
Keep in mind that the lead hasn’t made a decision yet. So, you can’t really expect a sale from a subscriber in this stage. If you do get that sale, it’s only a bonus.
Instead, use the content in this stage to move the undecided user into the decision stage. Send content that tells them why you would be the best pick to solve their problem.
Types of emails to send to leads in Stage 2:
- Educational (problem-solving emails)
- Webinar invites
- Special email course invites
- More freely downloadable content (providing higher value and solving a different problem than your lead magnets).
Funnel Stage 3: Decision to buy a product/service
In this stage, there will be those leads who have you on their shortlist of vendors to buy from.
Depending on the content you serve to them in stage 2, one of the three results will be seen:
- Some of your leads will completely drop off the funnel (if they decide on someone else or choose to abandon the search altogether).
- Few of your leads would be so impressed by the content that will make a final decision to hire you right away. These leads skip stage 3 and go directly from stage 2 to stage 4.
- Many of your leads may shortlist you as a potential vendor they want to buy services from. They have not made their final decision but they’re quite close to it.
This is where you will use your sales skills to actually attract these leads towards your product. The content will be conversion-focused. It will include purchase-oriented trigger and action words.
Types of emails to send to leads in Stage 3:
- Product Pitches
- Product offers
- Emails to help them decide which product/service is best for them
Keep in mind the stage 3 is not email only. Most businesses have an interview process to hire their freelancers. So be ready to appear for a video or a call interview, or the occasional informational call. You might even have to travel to client location for this stage if you are in the same city.
Funnel Stage 4: Action of selecting you as their chosen vendor
The number of leads you started with starts going down as each stage progresses. Only a few remain to become your clients.
In this stage, the lead has finally converted to become your client.
Types of emails to send to leads in Stage 4:
- Thank you emails
- Follow up emails
Now, between the time they hired you to end of the project, you will not have to send them any regular content.
Since they’re already your client, they would be interested in buying a higher tier of services. During your daily interactions with your clients, you can look for opportunities to pitch higher-end services.
Funnel Stage 5: Desire to buy more from you
Use of email marketing in this stage is minimal. You could up-sell or cross-sell your services to existing clients.
Once the project is over, do not take the clients out of your email list. Instead, put your older clients in a separate email list. To this list, you could send the following types of emails.
- Periodic discount offers
- Feedback/testimonial emails
- Stage 2 or stage 3 type of content to bring them back into the funnel
This is the most crucial stage, for you to be a forever-busy freelancer. Show your customer service skills, follow up regularly, and you might even get a repeat order.
Email marketing has tremendous benefits for freelancers. In order to execute it well, the freelancer has to come out of his/her comfort zone and think like a marketer.
Email marketing does involve some setup and brainstorming work. You have to know your audience and you have to plan out your content calendar well in advance. This might not be easy for some freelancers if you are doing this for the first time.
But when you begin to charge higher prices for the same amount of work, you will know this was a result of some solid email marketing. Your efforts will also manifest through a more packed order queue.
Feature image credits: Wikimedia